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Sharks try for important home-and-home sweep of Stars
(Sports Network) - The Stars could very well see their postseason chances end if they allow the Sharks to sweep this home-and-home series. A victory by Dallas, though, would keep the Western Conference playoff picture as cloudy as ever.
The Stars play host to the Sharks this evening three days after getting shut out by San Jose and falling out of a playoff spot.
San Jose's 3-0 home win over Dallas on Saturday put the Sharks in the eighth spot in the West with 90 points, one ahead of the Stars with three games left to play. Both clubs are also in contention for the Pacific Division title, currently led by the Los Angeles Kings' 93 points. Phoenix sits seventh in the West with 91 points.
The Sharks got 22 saves from Antti Niemi, as the netminder earned his sixth shutout of the season and 19th of his career. Joe Pavelski scored twice to give him a career-high and team-leading 31 goals, while Jason Demers also lit the lamp.
San Jose snapped a two-game slide and moved to 7-4-1 in its past 12.
"Everyone knew the importance of the game and it was exciting to have the crowd in it like a playoff game because that's what it was," said Pavelski.
The Sharks, who end their season with a home-and-home series against the Kings that begins on Thursday in Los Angeles, outscored the Stars 13-4 in winning all three home games versus Dallas this year and is 6-0-1 in the past seven encounters overall.
Captain Joe Thornton has been a big part of that success. The Sharks center had two assists in Saturday's win, giving him a goal and 10 helpers in the five meetings this season. Patrick Marleau has six points in the five encounters, while Pavelski has tallied four goals.
San Jose had won its past three in Dallas before a 4-3 shootout loss there on March 8. Tomas Vincour tied the game late in the third for the Stars and then had the only goal of the shootout on Niemi.
Kari Lehtonen made 45 saves and another five in the shootout in that win, but was touched for three goals on 34 shots on Saturday. Dallas ended a four-game road trip 1-3 and lost for the sixth time in nine games.
"We have got to move on. We have got a big game against this team on Tuesday and our fate is in our own hands still," Stars head coach Glen Gulutzan said.
With Dallas falling to 1-11-2 in the back end of playing on consecutive days, captain Brenden Morrow called tonight's meeting a must win. That is very true given that Dallas would clinch a playoff spot if it wins out and at least the Stars won't play on consecutive nights for the remainder of the regular season.
"Every team does it," Morrow said of playing back-to-back games. "It was a big game. I don't think fatigue can be an excuse for when you have what's on the line that we had tonight. Our back-to-back record hasn't been very good, but it hasn't been as meaningful as what tonight's game was in the past."
Dallas ends its season against two playoff-bound clubs, visiting Nashville on Thursday before hosting St. Louis on Saturday.
The Stars played without Radek Dvorak for a fourth straight game due to a sprained ankle and a third in a row minus Eric Nystrom because of a lacerated leg. Tom Wandell also missed his second consecutive game because of illness and all three forwards are questionable for tonight.
04/03 11:02:55 ET
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